[Visualize] Adding Textures to an Appearance

Adding appearances to a model in Visualize is the first step in any project, big or small. You can enhance your appearances even more by adding color, specular, alpha, and bump maps. Every one of these will help improve the realism of your appearances and make your models that much more photorealistic.

In this article, we’ll discuss exactly how to add textures to your appearances, as well as a very brief overview of the definitions of each of these texture maps and what they do.


Adding Textures

You can add textures to your appearances, by selecting the appearance in your Palette and navigating to the “Textures” section.




From here, double click on the map type and browse for the correct map file. Map files are generally image files (.jpg, .png, etc) and only one image file may be loaded into each map type at a time.

We can see a quick demonstration of the difference texturing can make down below:




Color Mapping

Color mapping does exactly what its name suggests: it allows you to add a color or an image to your appearance. This color or image will be applied everywhere that the appearance is applied, so if your appearance is placed on the entirety of a model, you’ll see the color map propagated to all faces of the model (as opposed to a decal which is applied on a face by face basis).




Above, we can see that the color map applied to the appearance has been applied not only to the spline surface but also on the bottom face of the model. This is because this particular appearance has been applied to the model as a whole and so the color map is applied to all faces.


Specular Maps

Specular maps control the “glossiness” of a model’s appearance. Here’s an example of a specular map:




While it looks like a mess of whites, blacks, and greys, when read as a specular map, each of those colors represents a certain amount of brightness that will be applied to a model’s appearance. Observe the model without a specular map (left) and with a specular map (right):




You can see how as soon as the specular map shown above was applied to the sphere, the model was covered in darker and lighter areas of light. These speckles coincide with the darker and lighter colors in the specular map itself, and, when combined with a bump map, can simulate realistic lighting across a textured surface.


Alpha Maps

An alpha map controls the transparency of a model’s appearance. It essentially reads a greyscale image in order to know where to apply transparency to a model and in what strength. If you were to open an alpha image file by itself, you’d see that an alpha map looks very similar to a specular map: an image of whites, grays, and blacks.

We can see the effects of an alpha map by loading in the above specular map from above as an alpha map:




If we observe the picture on the right, we can still vaguely make out a spherical shape, but we can see that almost all of the sphere has been rendered transparent.

On a practical level, this type of alpha map is completely useless, but it does demonstrate exactly what an alpha map does.


Bump Maps

Bump maps simulate actual texturing across the surface a model. Bump maps are responsible for most of the photorealism you’ll see in your model and will more accurately simulate what a material will look like as you apply it to your model.

A bump map is another image file that looks something like these:




Again, each color in a bump map is translated into the software to simulate a realistic, textured look on the surface.

Let’s take a look at a non-textured sphere and a sphere with a bump map applied to it:




We can see that as the bump map is applied, the surface of the sphere takes on the appearance of an actual material, rather than a smooth sphere.


Finding Textures

Now, by default texture files are located in C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\SOLIDWORKS Visualize Content, but you can change this directory at any time by going to Tools -> Options -> General.




You can also find more textures by clicking on the “File Libraries” tab in your palette and clicking on the “Cloud” option and changing the category to “Textures”:




After that you can simply double click and download any textures that you would like to use. Since textures are just image files, you download any image file you’d like to use as a texture.

If you have any further questions on applying textures to your appearances, feel free to contact Hawk Ridge Systems at 877.266.4469 (US) or 866.587.6803 (Canada) or you can send us an email at support@hawkridgesys.com.

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